Dec 9, 2015

Etymology Expeditions: James Joyce's made-up words

I'm about halfway through Ulysses, and I've noticed that Joyce uses a lot of words that seem made up. After doing some googling, I found this article by Paul Anthony Jones in the Huffington post detailing seventeen words James Joyce made up.

Here are a few of the more bizarre ones:

Yogibogeybox: apparently this describes the paraphernalia a spiritualist would carry around with him. 

Whenceness: from where someone came. 

Ringroundabout: to completely surround something. 

Mrkgnao: meow. Onomatopoetic.

Scribbledehobble: a writer's notebook where he/she scribbles stuff. (I rather like this one. Let's bring this back!)

According to the article, this one is from Finnegan's Wake and it describes the sound of thunder that accompanied the fall of Adam and Eve. The cool thing is that it compares words for thunder from many different languages into something that does, indeed, sound like thunder. Don't believe me? Try reading it aloud. (Which words? There are elements from the French tonnerre, Italian tuono, Ancient Greek bronte, and Japanese kaminari.) 

Bonus: Did you know Joyce invented the word quark? When physicist Murray Gell-Maan discovered them in the 1960s, he originally called them quorks. Then he saw this line in Finnegan's Wake: "Three quarks for muster mark." He liked quark better than quork, and as quarks can cluster together threes to form baryons, he felt the name apt. He credited Joyce with the name, of course.

Want to know more? Click here to read the article.

I did a quick search at, and none of these words appear. I'm not that surprised. That's James Joyce: too weird for dictionaries. But I did find yogibogeybox defined at What about you guys? Is anyone still using a non-virtual, hold-in-your-hands dictionary? Are Joyce's words in yours?

17 Words Invented by James Joyce by Paul Anthony Jones in the Huffington Post

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